VC's Update - 2023 Alumni Awards and Highly Cited Researchers

01 Dec 2023

Hello everyone,

It’s the first of December and so it is officially the final stretch of my tenure as Vice-Chancellor of the ANU. Although I am busily tying up many things, preparing to hand over others, and attending some of my final meetings, I am very much looking forward to the time to resume my academic career next year, when Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell will take up the mantle from 1 January 2024. 

This week I received news that the Albanese Government has taken steps to end the threat of political interference in research funding by introducing new legislation to improve the governance of the Australian Research Council (ARC). This is fantastic news, most of you will know I have expressed in no uncertain terms that political interference in research is a very bad thing. 

Congratulations to nine of our scholars that have made the 2023 Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers list. Well done to Professor Albert van Dijk, ANU College of Science; Dr Bui Quang Minh, ANU College of Engineering Computing & Cybernetics; Associate Professor Danielle A. Way, ANU College of Science; Professor Dragomir N. Neshev, ANU College of Science; Professor Robert Costanza, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific; Professor Si Ming Man, ANU Health and Medicine; Professor Yuri Kivshar, ANU College of Science; and Associate Professor Zongyou Yin, ANU College of Science. The list also recognised the accomplishments and contributions of Emeritus Professor Will Steffen, who sadly passed away earlier this year. If you missed out, I too have never managed to make this list either. 

In addition to baking up a storm in preparation for my submission into the people’s choice category of the Bake your Brian competition, I had the pleasure of attending the End of Year and Graduation event at Toad Hall with its wonderfully talented community of international and postgraduate students, and the staff. It’s always a pleasure to engage with the unique community that resides in this historic building and to wish them well, as they embark on the next stage of their lives and careers. 

I also spoke to the very first cohort of Stephen FitzGerald Scholars, comprising 20 of Australia’s highest achieving Chinese Honours and Masters students who had converged on the nation's capital in a program sponsored by the National Foundation for Australian China Relations and ANU. Named after ANU alumnus Dr Stephen FitzGerald who was also Australia’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, this new program aims to foster strong links between both countries by building relationships with the next generation of Chinese leaders. The students enjoyed a three-day immersive experience of Canberra culture and based on the energy and enthusiasm of the students in the room, I predict that this prestigious program will have a long and rich future.

I attended the sixth and final seminar in the Murru Waaruu (On Track) Economic Development series, which brought evidence and expertise together to design a new First Nations economic policy framework. A policy position paper is soon to follow, which will function as a roadmap for implementation and presents an opportunity for the Australian Government to reach the Closing the Gap targets it is striving for. I have been consistently impressed by the attendees which included diplomatic corps, first nations leaders, industry experts and committee representatives and the trail blazing insights and advice that they each offered. So the development of this First Nations economic policy framework Is something I will continue to follow into the future.

This week our 2023 Alumni Award winners were announced. The Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC was named 2023 ANU Alumnus of the Year, Professor Marcia Langton AO FASSA FTSE, received the ANU Indigenous Alumna Award and Dr Suharti was named the 2023 ANU International Alumna of the Year. Sharrada Segeran has been recognised as this year’s ANU Student Volunteer of the Year (Postgraduate) and Tom Gibbs as the ANU Student Volunteer of the Year (Undergraduate). Finally, Sophia Hamblin Wang is the joint-winner of the ANU Young Alumna Award alongside the late Sophie Trevitt. Congratulations to our award winners as well as all of this year’s outstanding nominees. You can read more about the award winners here.

Finally, a reminder to all staff about the QS Reputation Survey which will happen early in 2024. Prior to 2023, ANU held the #1 ranking in Australia, a position we maintained for over a decade. Everyone knows my views on rankings – but they do matter to the University, whether we like them or not. We need to nominate 400 new academics and 400 new employers to the pool who will receive the QS reputation surveys – we routinely perform much worse in these surveys than universities we would see as our peers. So if you know someone who might be prepared to fill in the survey, who you think has never done it before, and knows about us – either an academic or an employer of our students – please nominate them using this link. Don’t think someone else is going to do this – make it your mission to nominate at least one person… Pretty pretty please! 

The next VC blog will be my final one, and I am going to reflect on how much fun (and work) was involved in the role over the last eight years. I have always enjoyed penning these informal communications and I have been pleased to know that my blogs have been something staff have also enjoyed reading. I hope they help everyone know all the things that happen across the university and in the somewhat crazy life of a Vice-Chancellor.  

The vineyard with all the rain is ready for another spray – so that will be high on my list to do this weekend – but before that I have to contend with figuring out what to do with my Tesla, which had a large piece of protective plastic fall off its underside at the Council Dinner last night, and I had to abandon. 

Have a great weekend everyone.